Advice for Juniors
Get to know your teachers
Junior year teachers in your core academic classes (math, science, English, history) will be writing your letters of recommendation for colleges. Some colleges do not require (or want them) but chances are high that several colleges on your list will want at least one letter of support. Do your teachers really know and understand you as a student and a contributing member of your class? What would they say?
Make the best grades possible
This is the big year! Your junior classes will be academically challenging, and most likely, these classes will reflect the last grades colleges review before making a decision about your application. If you apply through Early Action or Early Decision options, or if the university/college offers Rolling Admission, then most likely the institutions will not have the opportunity of receiving your senior grades. (For students opting for Regular Action or Early Decision II application deadlines, then first semester senior grades will most likely be considered.) Junior year grades are the MOST important as every university/college will have these grades to assess your academic viability as a student on that campus. If your 9th and 10th grade report cards are not strong, try and improve your grades in junior year. A/B students, turn your B’s to A’s. Do your best. The time is now!
The best way to earn an A is to study each and every day. If you are a crammer, stop! You will discover that studying for a test is easier when you study daily and, consequently, retain more information. Develop good study habits now. Your grades will improve and you will be better prepared for college.
Have you been keeping an activities list? Turn it into a resume! Be specific, but don’t be wordy. Most resumes should be one page. Each resume is unique, but make sure if you hand it to a stranger, they will easily know what you have done outside of the classroom during your time in high school.
Look at your resume – this is the story of your activities outside of the classroom. What is missing? Academic pursuits? Leadership? Passion? You have two more years to create your story, what will that be? Grades come first but look for ways to improve your community, follow an academic interest, or take on a leadership position.
Come up with your testing plan. We strongly suggest students initially take both the SAT and ACT and find out which test renders better scores. If you are applying to very competitive colleges, SAT subject tests might also be required. There are also some colleges that are “test optional” whereby standardized tests are not required. This offers an excellent option to students whose GPA’s are solid, but standardized tests do not reflect their true academic abilities. Good news! Both the ACT and SAT are planning to include July test dates for 2017.
Test prep. Test scores are an important part of most admissions processes, so it is worth it to learn how to take these tests to your best advantage. Think about what works best for you. Learning in a classroom setting? One-on-one tutoring? Are you self-motivated enough for an online course? Maybe a combination! It is important to work test prep into your testing plan.
Research and visit colleges
Think about what you want in a college. Location? Size? Specific academic programs? Flexibility? The more you know what you want, the easier it will be to know if a college is the right school for you. Utilize college websites and independent review websites to understand what makes a college unique and a possible match. Make a list of colleges about which you want to know more. Identify “must see” colleges to plan campus visits.
It is important to identify colleges that you do not like as well. This helps students better refine their initial college list.
Cast a large net at first. Consider every college that intrigues you. Your “wish list” will decrease as you learn more about each college.
Visits are key. Nothing can replace the knowledge and “feeling” a student can acquire by being physically on a college campus. Plan a trip, and try to start your visits in your sophomore and junior years. Waiting for your senior year to start your college visits can add undue stress.
Meet with college representatives when they visit your high school, most often in the fall. Attend a session, and ask questions. Admissions counselors love their schools so they want to talk about the wonderful opportunities that await you as a possible students.
Get help in your process
High school counseling offices vary in time and ability but your school wants you to succeed. Attend college information programs and become familiar with the college counselors at your high school. High school college counselors are responsible for sending your transcript and a letter of recommendation (along with academic letters of recommendation). Help him or her get to know you so that he or she can write a thorough letter of support on your behalf.
If you are planning to work with an independent educational consultant, most offer junior/senior packages so junior year is a wonderful time to utilize their personal, professional guidance. Some consultants also have hourly rates and can provide you and your family direction to begin the process.
Not all educational consultants have the same qualifications and expertise. Make sure that the consultant holds a professional membership to IECA (Independent Educational Consultant Association) which is the gold standard of excellence in this profession.